Baylor's Don Trull was the nation's leading passer in 1963, and its Lawrence Elkins was the leading receiver. The question in Houston is whether the two can play keep-away from LSU's hard-scrabble defenders.
Coach John Bridgers' team will certainly try. As Arkansas' Frank Broyles put it during the season, "Baylor is running more offense and running it better than any team in the country." Beautifully guided by Trull, it is unlikely that any other college team ever has employed such a pure pro approach to offense (or sustained so much confidence in offense) as Baylor. With a pretty quick defense to go with the passes, it won seven games and was 6-1 in the Southwest Conference, losing only to National Champion Texas 7-0.
LSU's season record was identical to Baylor's (7-3), but the Tigers got there by different methods, most of them involving a limp. At various critical interludes, LSU lost its first-team quarterback, its fullback and center and its second-team guards, some of them concurrently. Still, the Tigers go to Houston with an explosive running game that features sophomores Don Schwab and Joe Labruzzo and junior Danny LeBlanc and Coach Charles McClendon's tough defense that has beaten two other fine quarterbacks, Miami's George Mira and Georgia Tech's Billy Lothridge. LSU has not, however, met a combination of the likes of Trull and Elkins. The guess is that the Tigers will not be able to bat down enough Baylor passes on Dec. 21 to win.
THE SUN BOWL
The Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, which is only a drop kick from Juarez, Mexico, has a new 30,000-seat stadium and a yearning to get on national television. To raise its prestige, the sponsors this year were determined to line up known teams from major college ranks, regardless of their won-lost records or the absence of name performers. They managed to do exactly that, matching Southern Methodist, which did not win many games (4-6), against Oregon (7-3), which must play without its brilliant halfback, Mel Renfro, who would have missed the game because of injury had he not also signed a professional contract. But for all of that the game on Dec. 31 could be a good one. Mac White of SMU and Bob Berry of the Webfoots are quarterbacks who enjoy rolling out and running or passing with great abandon. SMU, despite its six losses, still managed to be good enough to defeat Navy, the Cotton Bowl team, 32-28, and Air Force, the Gator Bowl team, 10-0, on a couple of hot Saturdays. The Mustangs of young Coach Hayden Fry are wonderfully aggressive, exploit the intricacies of the I formation and are likely to be more inspired for the game than Oregon. That, plus Renfro's loss, should give SMU the necessary edge.
THE LIBERTY BOWL
For a team that has long dwelt among the have-nots of recruiting, Mississippi State had quite a year. The Maroons finished 6-2-2, missed the Southeastern Conference championship by three points, tied Ole Miss in their blood game and got through the rest of their "November nightmare" by upsetting LSU 7-6, and Auburn 13-10 and losing a close one to Alabama 19-20. As reward, Paul Davis was the SEC's Coach of the Year and Mississippi State won a chance to go to the Liberty Bowl, which has survived for one more year. It should celebrate by defeating North Carolina State, co-champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, on Dec. 21.
Mississippi State's prime assets are Hoyle Granger (pronounced Gron-jay), a 215-pound sophomore fullback who gained 481 yards; Linebackers Pat Watson, a 60-minute man who was called the best Maroon all-round performer since Quarterback Jackie Parker, and J. E. Loiacano; fast Halfback Ode Burrell; and Place-kicker Justin Canale, whose foot tied or beat four teams. More important than anything, Coach Davis insists, is the fact that "this team never had a letdown all season."
Offensively North Carolina State will resemble closely its opponent, with a wing T and slot T attack, hoping to move on the ground rather than in the air. It is a senior team, and therein lies its strength. Quarterback Jim Rossi heads a backfield that has played together for four years and includes Joe Scarpati, Tony Koszarsky and Pete Falzarano, a foursome sometimes referred to, in all good humor as "the Mafia." Even if they take their violin cases to Philadelphia, the Polish-tainted Mafia will not beat Mississippi State.